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The Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto 2018: Never Stop Learning…

January 1, 2018

A Student Of Magazines For 40 Years

Humbled and proud to be on the Jan. 2018 cover of the Lebanese magazine Al Iktissad Al Jadeed. The cover story traces my journey and love of magazines from the streets of Tripoli, Lebanon to the United States and beyond. Thank you Bassem Bakkour.

I came to America in 1978 as a student of magazines and 40 years later I continue to be a student of magazines. That was a very profound year for me, as it laid the final foundation for something that was started much longer ago than that, when I was a mere boy growing up in Tripoli, Lebanon: my love and addiction for magazines. My hobby became my education, and my education became my profession. I have never worked a day in my life.

As a student of magazines, I have been very fortunate to have interviewed many eminent heads of magazines over the years. In fact, I interviewed 70 industry leaders in 2017 and it was the toughest job ever to highlight only 18 quotes (since it is 2018 that we are celebrating) out of those 70. Each and every interview provided me with many lessons to learn from. So, in true student form, and for the Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto, I decided to let them speak about the industry that I study so profusely. Their words are eloquent and resonate with what magazines are all about: an experience that transforms and transcends time and circumstances, while staying honest and hopeful about the digital age we’re living in.

So, Happy New Year from Mr. Magazine™. Let’s make 2018 the best year yet and I hope you glean as much wisdom and inspiration as I did from the following 18 lessons presented in no particular order:

1. Magazines Are Money Makers:

“We like to make money. We think there is money in print and more print, and we like to make money and grow profits in digital. You can’t have one be primary and one be secondary. We have to be good at both. The businesses have some things in common, but also, a lot of things that are not in common with each other. And we have to be very skilled at running good, solidly-profitable businesses in all of the areas that we operate.” David Carey, President Hearst Magazines.

2. Never Lose Sight Of The Soul And Purpose Of The Magazine:

“But here’s the thing, and this is the important thing; my job and our job in this moment in time is to get all of the technological things right, but never to lose sight of, or the feel for, what The New Yorker is or should be. That if we only concentrate on these questions of technology and business and all the rest, and lose sight of the soul of the place, of the purpose of the place, of the integrity of the place, all-knowing that we’re going to make mistakes along the way, that if we lose sight of that then it’s not worth it.” David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker

3. Always Put Readers First:

“I tell my staff all of the time; think about your reader, and when you have a million things coming at you; when you’re wrestling with a story or when you’re confused about what to do next, just think about your reader and put yourself in their shoes and look at it from their perspective. And as long as you do that, you’re going to make the right decision.” Sid Evans, Editor In Chief, Southern Living & Coastal Living

4. Hope To Grow Again:

“I’d also like to say that it’s great to speak to someone who is passionate about print. I’m someone who grew up loving print. I love the print medium and nothing would make me happier than helping this company win in this new world and grow again. That’s what we wake up every day to do here.” Rich Battista, President and CEO, Time Inc.

5. Readers Will Pay For Quality Content:

“What’s been the most exciting thing to happen over this time is the consumer’s willingness to pay for quality content in all forms, be it print, digital, etc. And that’s a trend that’s increasing and is an exciting thing for folks that want to create great content for consumers. It’s going to allow us to think about all kinds of different ways that we can sell direct, so that’s an exciting shift over that time period.” Bob Sauerberg, President & CEO, Condé Nast

6. Magazines and Magazine Media Brands Are Credible:

“Part of what we’re doing is talking to consumers to remind them that magazine media brands have that credibility…People have figured out that not all content is created equal and consumers are using magazine brands as a shortcut to quality…All of the outside research, not MPA research, proves that magazines build brands and sell products at the same time better than any other media channel.” Linda Thomas Brooks, President & CEO, MPA: The Magazine Media Association

7. Inspiration Versus Utility:

“Consumers and women still love the printed format to turn to for inspiration and for more of that lean-back experience. And what we look for more with digital is as a utility to help them to do something in the short-term. So, inspiration versus utility, as I like to say.” Tom Harty, President & COO, Meredith

8. Print Is Restorative:

“I think you’re seeing a move-back to print; a move-back to the appreciation that print is restorative; it’s actually information that you take in. We know that there was a connection between the tactile, taking in of information… so, the touching of print and the absorption of information. And I feel very confident that print will continue to evolve and remain relevant.” Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines

9. Magazines Provide A Bonding Time That Makes You Feel Special:

“Right now there isn’t a digital component for Coloring with Mommy, because it’s really print and paper-driven. It’s a book that digitally, even if you printed out a comic book page, it wouldn’t be the same quality and it wouldn’t have the heart that we put into the magazine, because it’s not just coloring book pages. It’s that bonding time and the extra stuff that makes the magazine feel more special.” Brittany Galla, Editorial Director, Bauer Media Group’s Youth Division

10. Great Magazine and Magazine Media Ideas Get Funded:

“Great ideas do get funded. You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say, “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.” Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines

11. True Audience Based Magazines Are Here To Stay:

“I think my son at age 12 is pretty engaged across the spectrum of technology, but it was eye-opening to hear him say there might not be print when he becomes an adult. But I’m convinced there will be for my lifetime, particularly for kid’s magazines. I think we face different issues in some types of adult titles and different issues in current events and news than in true audience-based magazines. But at Highlights, we’re believers in print.” Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights

12. Bookazines Must Reinvent Themselves:

“There was a time when people would put out any bookazine and it did well, because it was a bookazine, and it was single-topic, and it was a novelty. But these days the market is so flooded and the consumer has gotten so used to the bookazine that if you’re not changing the face of what the bookazine is; if you’re not recreating the entire bookazine itself and the bookazine category, it’s just going to start to drop and plummet and it’s going to be catastrophic for anyone in the bookazine business.” Tony Romando, Co-Founder, CEO, Topix Media Lab

13. Be In The Relationship Business:

“There’s room for it (print), of course, and if you’re in the relationship business, to some extent you’re agnostic. Your job is to really know the customer and how they want content experiences delivered to them. And if they’re raising their hands and saying they want magazines, then you provide magazines. And they still today provide fantastic and immersive lean-back experiences.” Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Publishing

14. Long-form Quality Engagement Is Where People Are Spending Their Time:

“I think this is really an exciting, rich topic right now, because what we are actually seeing is all of the platforms and all of the digital experiences that have endeavored to make the world revolve around the short-form snippet stuff, have all actually come around to the fact that long-form quality engagement is really where people are spending time.” Joe Hyrkin, CEO, issuu

15. Magazines Offer A Much Quieter Editorial Experience:

“When she’s (the consumer) reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.” Liz Vaccariello, Editor In Chief, Parents Magazine

16. Magazines and Magazine Media Have A Different Business Model:

“I think fundamentally digital businesses are not the same as the magazine media business. We all have social media and you could say a magazine audience might be, from a community standpoint, like the original social media, but Facebook’s business model and Google’s business model are pretty radically different than the traditional magazine business model. So, it wasn’t a natural progression that if you’re in the magazine media business, you should have, would have figured all of that out.” Andy Clurman, President & CEO, Active Interest Media

17. A Tangible Magazine Is A Feather In The Cap For A Digital-First Brand:

“I actually think the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.” And, almost counterintuitively, I suspect a lot of that is being driven by millennials. For as digitally savvy, and as digital-first a generation as millennials and Gen Z’s are, there’s also this yearning for authenticity and for something real. Again, I think it’s based on the type of content. I think with that generation in particular. It’s not fair at all to say millennials aren’t magazine readers. They’re magazine readers, but they want different types of magazines and want to consume information in different ways.” Doug Kouma, Editorial Content Director, Meredith

18. There Is No Need To Beat Up On Print:

“Why do people feel this need to beat up on print, in particular people in the industry? We closed our fiscal year June 30; we were up on advertising for both Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home year over year. Print is strong for us. We have a great respect for print and we have a great respect for the print reader. Of course, we expect greater growth to come from digital advertising, but one does not preclude the other.” Bonnie Kintzer, President & CEO, Trusted Media Brands

And there you have 18 lessons from 18 magazine industry leaders about the power of print; the expected growth of digital; and the MANY ways consumers want to consume their information. And in 2018, isn’t it time the industry let the audience decide that for themselves? Whether it’s a gloriously printed ink on paper magazine, a fantastic website that has depth and clarity, or a social media site that brings people and their comments together; the decision of where, how, and when these readers soak up and absorb content is one that in 2018 (and in the 21st century) should be made by them, magazines and magazine media are here to simply provide those outstanding experiences.

Thank you magazine industry leaders for all the lessons you taught me in 2017 and here’s to a great 2018 and more lessons to learn…

Happy New Year!
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

* All quotes are taken from my interviews with the industry leaders in 2017 and all titles used are those that the industry leaders held at the time of the interview.

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